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The Ex(6)
Alafair Burke

“It’s too late for that. You’re here, and you said yourself they’re going to be back any second to transport me. God knows how long it will be before they let me see a different lawyer.”

“I’ll tell the new lawyer everything you’ve told me, okay?”

“No!” He slammed the tabletop with his fists, the sound amplified by the clank of his handcuffs against the faux wood grain. Even when I had been horrible to Jack, he had never once yelled at me. I jumped from my chair on instinct, and he immediately apologized for the outburst. “I’m begging you, Olivia. I know you’re used to representing people who can take this in stride. They get booked and processed and detained. They get strip-searched and deloused and use the toilet in front of their cell mates. They wait it out for trial and trust you’ll do your thing along the way. But I can’t wait, okay? I have Buckley. She’s only sixteen years old, and she’s already lost one parent. You know I didn’t do this, but some other lawyer won’t. They’ll just put me through the system. I need to go home. Olivia, please, you’ve got to get me out of here.”

The last bit of light fell from his face. Even after hours in custody, the thought of his daughter having to live without a parent aged him another decade.

I rose from my chair, turned my back to him, and banged loudly on the conference room door to indicate I was ready. Behind me, I heard Jack choke back a sob.

Detective Boyle cracked the door open. “Just in time for transport, Counselor.”

“Do you have any idea what you’ve done, Detective? Your next move had better be a phone call to someone with the power to unlock those handcuffs and escort Mr. Harris back to his apartment, apology in hand, or you’ll be on the front page of the Post as the nitwit thug who locked up the Penn Station widower. If you’re lucky, you’ll spend the rest of your career investigating subway cell-phone grabs.”

Boyle reached out and patted me on the head. “Your tough-talking defense attorney bullshit’s adorable.”

I hadn’t expected that. But I did know what he was anticipating in return: offense and outrage. Instead, I took a seat and calmly crossed my legs. “Then call my bluff. Or play it safe and call ADA Scott Temple. Tell him exactly what I said to you, and then see what happens. Things will be interesting either way, Detective, I promise.”

JACK WAS TAPPING THE TABLE so loudly that my head was starting to throb, my hangover resurfacing. I knew that every minute that passed without him getting moved to MDC was a good sign, but Jack was growing more anxious by the second.

I pulled a notepad from my briefcase and slid it across the table with a pen. “Your computer information. All your e-mail accounts and passwords. Your Web provider. Any social media pages. Everything.” It would keep him busy, or at least his hands from that incessant tapping.

When he nudged the pad back in my direction, I blinked at the sight of a tidy list in neat, round, perfect, familiar print. Even with the cuffs, he was like a human Cambria font.

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]



Wow, Jack on Twitter. Somehow I had missed that in my late-night drunken cyberstalking over the years.

“Passwords, too,” I said.

“It’s the same for everything, down at the bottom of the page.”

Volunteered to go to the station. Didn’t lawyer up. Consented to a GSR swab. And one password for every account. He was still the same, naive Jack.

At least the password wasn’t “password.”

He had written:


It took a second to register. Less than, like the math symbol, followed by the number 3. The two shapes together formed a heart. Jack loves Molly and Buckley.

“It was an easy way for all of us to remember our passwords when we first set up the accounts. Molly’s was Molly loves Jack and Buckley. And so on.”

“Sweet,” I said, because it seemed like something I should say.

“The Olivia I knew would be more like—” He made a gagging gesture with his finger and laughed quietly. “Hey, I don’t know why I feel the need to say this, but I’m not some blubbering fool who falls in love with a pretty woman at the park. Or, despite all appearances, some imbecile who gets railroaded by police saying they’re on a routine canvass. I mean, how many times have I wondered what you would think of me if we ever saw each other again, and here I am, some pathetic pushover.”

So he had wondered, too. “None of that matters right now, Jack.”

“No, I guess not. But I do want to thank you—for coming here, and for staying. I mean it. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have someone who knows me—who knows I couldn’t have done this—on my side. You scared me with that ‘call my bluff’ business, but I think whatever you said may have rattled him.”

I had given Jimmy Boyle two choices—process Jack as he planned, or call ADA Scott Temple. At that moment, I placed the odds at fifty-fifty.

Once the room fell silent, I was the one getting nervous. I pulled out my cell phone and called the office. Einer picked up, as I expected. “Good afternoon, Ellison and Randall.”

“Einer, it’s Olivia.”

“Hey, mamacita.” For reasons that remained a mystery, Einer Ronald Erickson Wagner, raised by law professors in Connecticut, had decided to co-opt myriad distinctly non-WASPy linguistic styles. “You coming in today? Don was asking.”

I did not want to think about what Don would say when he found out about our new client. “I’m following up on that kid’s call. You got a second?”

Einer was a jack-of-all-trades, but the fact that Don and I were almost completely dependent on him for any computer work that went beyond basic e-mail and Google explained why we put up with his many eccentricities. I gave him an extremely truncated version of the facts: a missed-moment post on the Room, followed by some e-mail messages back and forth. I asked him to find the original post, the e-mails between Jack and Madeline, and, most important, whatever information he could track down about Madeline.

“Sounds like the beginning of a rom-com. This is what that kid was yammering on about this morning?”

“Just do it, okay? Oh, and while I’ve got you—” I said it like there was no connection whatsoever. “Any arrest in that shooting downtown yet?”

“Nope. I’ve been flipping channels and refreshing constantly for any updates, but so far there’s no real news. Only three shot, at least one dead, reporters waiting for confirmation about others.”

We now lived in a country where only three shot was good news. “Nothing else? Witnesses? Rumors?”

“Nah. I mean, they’ve got the usual interviews—the sounds of gunshots, people running. But without any concrete information, they’re already resorting to talking heads debating gun laws and whether New York City is getting more dangerous.”

So Jack’s name wasn’t out yet. That was good. Once his name was leaked, the news reports would create their own momentum and I’d have no hope of stopping the train. “Great. Call me about those e-mail messages as soon as you’ve got something.”

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